A Quick Guide to Setting Up an Online Store that Sells

Whether you’re thinking about starting an online store, or already have one and want to bump up your sales, this guide will help you set up a site that will make your customers (and your wallet) happy.

By the time you have finished this article, whether you’re setting up a new online store or want to increase performance by tweaking an existing one, you will be equipped to make better decisions when running your website.

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Make a Good First Impression

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Web users are generally very discerning when it comes to the sites they visit. People surfing the internet want immediate gratification, and will close a tab immediately if they think they won’t see something worthwhile on the site they’re viewing. That’s why it’s very important to make a good first impression with your website.

Can a visitor tell instantly what kind of website it is? Does the design of the site and your content spell out what your business does very clearly? Do you offer a service, or a product? Can they see the product that you are selling? Are you broadcasting its main selling points, such as benefits and price, clearly and boldly?

Can a visitor easily see how to contact you? It’s not always possible to foresee and answer all your customers’ questions, so give them a convenient way to contact you for more. Consider having a contact number or e-mail address visible on the home page at the very least, or in the site’s header or footer so that visitors can always see how to contact you. Also, be sure to show at which times you respond to inquiries through your site — customers need to know how and when to contact you when they need to make an inquiry about a purchase.

Do you list a physical address on your website? A physical address shown on a website is a great source of comfort to visitors, and lends some credibility and trust to the business.

Does the website load quickly? Consistently, usability studies have shown that loading speed is a determining factor in how many visitors remain on a web page after they visit it. If a page takes longer than a few seconds to load on a broadband connection, most visitors immediately close the tab,

Detailed Product Information

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A very basic challenge to selling something online should be obvious: Your customer can’t easily see and touch the product you’re selling. It’s all well and good to have product image, a description and a price, but are you sure that you are giving the customer everything they need to make a decision?

As with any business, knowing your customer and what their basic needs are is very important to online sales, and it’s even more important to provide a wealth of information about the product in an online space, as your customer can’t necessarily talk to a representative to ask questions (unless they are using a customer service widget such as Zopim).

To create product information that will sell is pretty simple: just put yourself in the shoes of someone who is buying your product, and ask yourself what kinds of things you would need to know before you bought it. Write down the questions you ask yourself, and answer those questions on the product page for the customer, before they need to ask it.

… Bought the T-Shirt

Say you want to buy some clothing. You walk into a clothing store whose style you enjoy. What kind of clothing do you need? A t-shirt, maybe?

What colour t-shirt do you want? If you are offering several different colours of shirt, be sure to show all the different colours or designs that you have available. You can upload multiple product images to a single product.

What size t-shirt are you? Clearly show the sizes that you have available, and set them up as product options. If all of your shirts don't use the same sizing system, provide your visitors with a size guide so that they can compare sizes. If your customer is viewing a shirt with European sizes, they will need to know whether the shirt will fit them.

Is it a high-quality, well-made t-shirt? To give your customer the best experience, use a high-quality product image, and allow the customer to zoom into the product image to view small details such seams, stitching and designs.

Will the t-shirt look good on you? — Instead of having images of the shirts on a shelf or spread out on a flat surface, use images of models modelling the shirts. Shoppers will respond better to online sales if they can imagine themselves using the product.

Depending on the product that you are selling, the questions that you come up with will differ. What would the questions be for, for example, a new computer or tablet? Screen size, storage space, screen size, mobile data connection speed and so on are all details that the customer would want to know.

This will be different for every product, and it’s up to the seller — you — to know your market, your product, and how to sell it. If you are selling an existing product with existing marketing materials, you as the seller may be able to use or license the marketing information for the product you are selling. Otherwise, it’s time to put on your salesperson hat and do some selling!

If you need ideas, get a friend to “buy” a product from you, as a fun exercise. And when in doubt, take a look at successful stores that sell the same product you do for some inspiration.

Confidence Boosters

Although shopping online is becoming more and more accepted, the idea of buying online will still be a bit off-putting to some visitors, especially in emerging markets where e-commerce stores aren’t widely adopted.

Buying online can seem risky to shoppers, who might be concerned about the quality of the product they are buying (since they can’t personally inspect the item), whether they can return the item if they’re not satisfied, when the item will arrive at their door, and whether their money will be safe with you. To make shoppers feel safe, you can use clear and friendly messages addressing each of these concerns to put them at rest before the shopper clicks away and you lose the sale. Known as trust marks, they are a proven way to increase sales volumes, loyalty and customer satisfaction on any online store.

Returns Policy - Offer free returns and give clear instructions on how to return an item. (e.g. Free Returns for 14 Days, and a page with instructions on how to return the product.)

Shipping Policy - Offer free shipping on all or certain orders, and give shoppers a convenient way to track their shipments. (e.g. Free Shipping on Orders over $50, and follow up on a sale with a courtesy e-mail with a courier tracking code for the customer’s convenience)

Secure Transactions - All transactions on Build are performed via 2Checkout, a popular and widely trusted payment gateway and online wallet. 2Checkout guarantees these transactions and offers fraud prevention as part of its service. Once you’ve signed up for 2Checkout and have your store running, why not brag about it on your site?

It is best to show these trust marks prominently on your website where customers can see them at all times — for instance, in the header of the website.

Run Sales and Deals and New Arrivals, and Display them Clearly

Sales and deals are are a excellent tools move more product in a short time. Whenever you launch a sale or a deal, it’s worth designing a banner for the home page to announce it. This will make an even bigger splash, and

New Arrivals — New products in store are sure to catch a few eyes. It also looks good to new visitors, who generally like stores which continually change up their product lines to bring fresh and exciting items in.

Two-For-One Specials and Gift Vouchers — these kinds of products and deals are a great way to boost sales of particular items in a short time. These kinds of deals are exciting and leave customers with a bargain, which will build loyalty with your store.

Run a Competition — Competitions quickly let you build engagement with your community (if you have one), and attract new followers (if you don’t). It can be paired with a social media channel to build more engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or another channel as well.

Clearance Sales — Items that are taking up space on your (figurative) shelves, and that you no longer wish to keep stock of. These are items that are usually slow to sell and costly to keep stock of… or are simply items that don’t have as much value or relevance anymore (for example, last year’s clothing that doesn’t quite look as stylish anymore today, or moving Winter clothes in Spring.)

Seasonal Sales and Holiday Events — If applicable, definitely make a point of launching a special sale on holiday occasions. Black Friday, Christmas, Valentines Day and other holidays are perfect opportunities for a themed sale.

Fast-Moving products and Best-Sellers — Products that you generally keep a lot of stock of, and are quick to sell and need to be replenished quickly. Chances are that, if you have a lot of low-price and high-volume sales already, you will know exactly what these products are. Even showcasing them in a prominent area should be enough to increase their sales, but if you sell them at a discount, you will effectively move even more of these items in a shorter time.

In Short:

Make a good first impression. Be clear about what you sell or what you offer. The design of your site should reflect your business. Have clear contact and physical address details visible on your site. Give customers an easy and reliable way to contact you. Make sure your website loads quickly.

Give detailed product information. Be sure you are giving the customer all the information they need to make a decision about what to buy. What variations are available? What do they look like? What sizes are available, if applicable? What are their technical specifications, dimensions, and so on?

Confidence Boosters. Offer free or discounted shipping. Show your returns policy clearly. Have a visible contact number or live chat on every page of your website. Set your customer’s minds at ease by showing you care about their security. Display a physical address for your business somewhere on the site.

Run Sales and Deals. Seasonal sales, holiday sales, clearance sales and fast-moving items sales are great opportunities to sell more products. Run competitions to build engagement and loyalty. Two-for-one deals, gift vouchers and other special product offerings will also help to increase your sales volumes.